Boveda 62% Humidipak


Boveda humidipaks are simple, cheap and easy for ensuring the perfect humidity during curing of medical cannabis.

For a great deal on humidipaks, visit our friends at


Iron Hill Brewing – Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Iron Hill is a chain of  brewpubs in the Delaware valley region. Their beers have medaled at every World Beer Cup since 2002 and at every Great American Beer Festival (GABF) since 1997. At the 2008 GABF, their Roggenbier, Vienna Red Lager, Saison, and Lambic de Hill were awarded gold medals. Their Cherry Dubbel took silver and Cassis de Hill took bronze. At the 2012 World Beer Cup, in addition to their beers earning two gold and a bronze medals, Iron Hill repeated their 2014 honors as the World Beer Cup Champion Brewery and Brewmaster.

While visiting Lancaster, PA we tried their location at 781 Harrisburg Pike twice during the week. This location is adjacent to Franklin & Marshall College with abundant parking and easy access. On each occasion, we were seated quickly and the waitstaff were friendly and attentive.


The beer here is really good, and I enjoyed quite a few glasses of their Pumpkin Ale which was well balanced and enjoyable.

The Kabouter Belgian-style tripel is delicious and pleasantly complex with an earthy personality. At ~8% ABV it certainly does not disappoint.

Their Flannel Shirt ESB was not as exciting…it was on nitro with pleasant mouthfeel, but seemed muddled. Not horrible, just not what I expected at all.

The Witberry pleased the ladies in our group and even the snobs said it wasn’t bad – Belgian wheat beer, low ABV, with a hint of raspberry – what’s not to like?

Food-wise, they have modern American fare. We enjoyed the fish tacos, Bavarian pretzels (Not spectacular, but most delicious), and fried goat cheese (very good indeed). The Fried Brussel sprouts were very nicely prepared and flavored with pecorino romano. Very good indeed.

Their hamburgers were particularly tasty. We shared the Big Bold, Brewski, and Santa Fe burgers. All were distinctively good, and my favorite was the Brewski with Swiss Cheese.

My girlfriend enjoyed the Triple Chocolate Hill for desert. She loved the peanut butter-caramel sauce, but it was a bit too sweet to me.

Fun place. Good food, good drink, definitely worth visiting.

Nub Maduro Cigar Review

The Hype:A novel concept in handmade cigars from Oliva….a substantive blend that will make you rethink the cigar experience.

Nub started as a theory. Born in the Oliva factory, a cigar maker was hell-bent on proving he could capture the essence – the core – of a cigar’s flavor immediately upon lighting and throughout the duration of the smoke. Well, they nailed it.

Click here for a quick reference guide to Nub.

Rather than wait for a cigar to develop and evolve, which typically occurs an inch to two inches in, the idea behind Oliva’s Nub was to specifically blend it to hit its sweet spot right off the bat and remain at its peak right through to the end. Each size is short and stout in stature. That’s by design – not for novelty – as blends and sizes were worked and re-worked a thousand ways from Sunday in order for Nub creator Sam Leccia and the Oliva family to capture the essence of each Nub blend. Anyone can create unusual shapes, each of the Nub blends and accompanying shapes was instead created to summon and deliver the blend’s sweet spot. Sample one today.

Nub comes in three varieties. Each variety shares three common sizes, as well as a special vitola specially crafted to accentuate the blend.

Cameroon – dark and leathery to the touch. A sweet, cedary smoke with an intriguing spice. The aftertaste is dry and toasty. Intense pepper through the nose. A medium to full-bodied cigar that’s toasty and complex, yet smooth.

Connecticut – smooth, silky wrapper. Mellow and creamy to start, with a rich, somewhat sweet core. The aftertaste is toasty, but crisp. Toasted cedar through the nose. Medium-bodied with a rich, milky texture.

Habano – glossy, milk chocolate-brown wrapper. Rich tobacco core with a smoky aftertaste. Hints of peanuts are supported by a baked bread component. Spice through the nose. Medium to full-bodied with a rich, creamy character throughout.

Maduro – dark, thick, and oily Brazilian wrapper. The smoke is rich and toasty with a deep series of chocolate and nuts. The aftertaste is spicy with natural sweet tones. Medium in body with a toasty, full-flavored finale.”


The Review: This is Oliva’s maduro nub. Prelight aroma is aromatic and pleasant: earthy and oakey with hints of leather. On initial light, this vitola produces copious clouds of white/gray smoke. The smoke is not harsh and generally pleasant, but quite as aromatic as the CAO Brazilia. Flavor hits you right in the palate after the first draw, it really lives up to its reputation of providing full flavor throughout. Flavor is definitely typical of most maduros; spicy, earthy, and peppery. Flavour of this stick is almost identical until right at the end where it mellows out and then begins to become ever so slightly bitter; but not unpleasantly so. This is a short cigar, so it does burn rather hot, almost unpleasantly so. I had to pace myself on the draw to keep the smoke smooth enough to enjoy.

Very nice cigar, but I wouldn’t keep it in my daily rotation. – Only for unique occasions.

Pyramid Discord Dark IPA

Pyramid Discord IPAThe Hype: “Discord Dark IPA celebrates the marriage of two distinct styles, the Dark Ale and the IPA. The traditional bitterness of an IPA is juxtaposed against a black malt canvas, creating an ale that keeps your taste buds working to discover all the unique flavors imparted by the 5 different hops and 5 different malts.”

The Review: This is a very interesting beer; I enjoyed it with friends at a party tonight. The beer is dark like an imperial stout and pours with minimal foam. In the glass, it smells like chocolate, coffe, pine and has a mild hint oc citrus. First drink is like an imperial stout; but then the hops kick in and the flavor intensifies. Each sip seems to unlock more flavor complexity, especially coffee and yeasty notes. This is not an excessively bitter beer, with the hops accentuating the ale flavor. I think I like “dry-hopped” beers a lot more these days; they seem crisper and more aromatic. Aftertaste of this beer is very pleasant, not unlike a good coffee.

After the first two bottles, I enjoyed this beer with a Nub Maduro 460 Cigar and they make excellent companions indeed.

Hoyo De Monterey Excalibur 1066 Review

The Hype: The Excalibur 1066 is an extension of the popular Hoyo Excalibur line. The 1066 features an utterly smooth and complex blend of Dominican, Honduran and Nicaraguan filler tobaccos along with absolutely beautiful true Cameroon wrappers.”

The Review: This cigar looks good, it is consistently firm and the cameroon wrapper is uniform and slightly veiny. There were a few water spots on the wrapper but they didn’t detract from the beauty of this stick.  I like the embossed band also, making it look like a gentleman’s cigar.

Pre-light aroma is grassy and slightly sweet with a faint hint of ammonia in the background.

After a good toasting, the foot light easily and glows red hot with a cedar aroma instantly noticeable. After the first puff, the stick begins emitting wispy gray smoke that smells like any other cigar of the type, nothing striking.

Mouth-feel and flavor is gentle to start, toast, coffee, and a faint hint of pepper.

This cigar burns well, albeit slightly ragged & unevenly.

Ash is medium gray with darker bands. It doesn’t hold ash for quite as long as I would like, averaging about 1″ before falling off.

After reaching a mid-point, flavor begins to intensify with black pepper becoming more dominant but not at all overpowering. The smoke color is becoming more blue and less voluminous.

Approaching the last third, the flavor concentrates and becomes slightly bitter – a short rest fixes the bitterness and the flavor continues as pepper with espresso. Mouth-feel is richer now leaving a pleasant aftertaste of toast and coffee.

Approaching the three-finger mark, the wrapper is beginning to even out on the burn making the ash look more aesthetically pleasing.

Smoke aroma is changing again, hints of cedar are becoming stronger and a faint sage smell permeates in the background – not unpleasant, but different…

This is a good cigar. I rate it in the medium-strength category for my palate. Not to mild and not too bold, just right for a daily smoke or one to share with friend new to the brotherhood of the leaf.


Dubhe Imperial Black IPA Review

This is an interesting beer. Uintah touts it as a hemp seed infused Imperial black IPA. They describe the flavor  as “Toasted, chocolaty dark malts align with an astronomical amount of hops.”

I had friends over tonight, so I thought it would be fun to try some different Utah brews. Dubhe (Utah’s centennial star) pours much like Guinness with a creamy white head and very pleasant aroma. It is inky black and has a different aroma; grassy, piney, chocolatey and a hint of coffee in the background. This brew does indeed smell “hoppy”.

First sip is very bitter, almost astringent. Breathing and swallowing brings the next sip…chocolate, malt and hops. Mouth-feel is tight and bitter, full and heady. Drinking more and savoring the flavor accentuates the hops with an espresso aftertaste.

We were eating cheeses while drinking this beer and there certainly is a difference after a mouthful of Camembert! – each style of cheese reacted with the beer to enhance and detract from the flavor. I like eating Gorgonzola and Stilton while drinking this beer, but aged Gouda is simply sublime!

This is not a normal stout, it has everything an imperial stout offers; the body, fullness and slight bitterness, but it offers a more exciting taste and mouthfeel. It took a while to become accustomed to the flavor profile, but after a bottle I was ready for more.

The hops make this beer very different….the 9.2% ABV doesn’t hurt either…This is a very entertaining beer. I like it.

Spotting Fake Cuban Cigars

Re-posted from Duty Free Cigars – They are a trustworthy vendor and great to do business with.


How to spot a Counterfeit or Fake Cuban Cigars

Box Appearance

A green and white warranty seal should be visible on the left front side of box.  The seal’s color can range from forest to lime-green inside the seal is an insignia that contains a shield with a hat resting on top.   The fold line of the seal should run directly through the center of the shield.  On the box’s upper right corner should be a white Habanos sticker, pasted diagonally.  The box should look in neat and clean condition, free of smudges and scuff marks or dull in color.

On the bottom of box you will find a Habanos heat stamp.  Make sure it is a heat stamp impressed into the box and not an ink stamp.  Below this heat stamp will be a factory code stamp in an ink color (usually green, blue or black).  This tells you the factory where the cigars were rolled and the date.


*Websites that always stock limitada Edicions from 2000 and onwards such as Cohiba, Montecristo, Partagas that are always in stock at really cheap prices.

* Never stock smaller ring guage brands. Check brands such as Cuaba, Fonseca, Jose L. Piedra, La Flor de Cano, Por Larranaga, Rafael Gonzales always listed but never in stock! *Never have a selection of brands in tubes or 3 and 5 packs

*Never stock Minis,Clubs and Puritos sizes.

*Websites that have Swiss address but their prices are so much less than the majority of websites based in Switzerland.

*Toll free numbers that end up being answered by outsource centers in Costa Rica or seems to be answered at the same call center for different Cuban cigar websites.

Here is the list of known suspects:

Box Contents
Upon opening the box pull back the flap, and smell the tobacco.  The fragrance should be pleasing, with a rich, deep aroma.  The cigars should be uniform in both colour and shape.  The top face of the cigar may appear flattened, or what is known as box-pressed.  This is particularly true for torpedo shape.  The caps should look identical, all resting at an equal distance from the top of the box.  The foot of the cigar should be cut clean and straight, and the bands should be identical and aligned perfectly.

On the top and bottom row of cigars there should be a small strip of wax paper running across the bands.  Next pull a cigar out of box and feel it, by holding between your thumb and forefinger.  Press together down the whole length of the cigar, it should feel firm and even (not a hard spot and then a soft spot).  This is always a dead giveaway that the cigars are counterfeit.

New Habanos SA authenticity warranty seal verification for 2009 onwards:



 As a way to keep all Habanos lovers as well as our Exclusive Distributors updated all over the world, it’s necessary to notify the changes to be occurred as regards as to the Cuban Warranty Seal.

From now on, a new Warranty Seal will be gradually introduced in all the packaging where two new elements are to be added. On the right hand, a hologram as a security item will be added and on the left hand, next to the Cote d´ Arms, a bar code will personalize every package.

This label will always be placed from the upper left side of the box or display, leaving 3 to 6 mm from the edge and to be bending up to the front right over the center of the Cote d´Arms whenever possible.

This Seal has been developed through a base of synthetic paper with special characteristics such as an auto-destructive feature before any attempts of removal and with several maximum security techniques added.

•   Tamper-evident label. Any attempt to remove it, will cause invalidation of the seal by self destruction.
•   Highly adherence of the paper (plastic) Auto-destructive, Self-destructive.
•   Scan and Photocopy Protected System.
•   The holographic band will show a bi-color text in 2nd and 3rd dimension.
•   Elements with optical variations attached.
•   Microdot only visible through laser scanner.

On the other hand, a unique bar code will be applied on every single box thus customizing every packaging. This information will be saved in a data base allowing the identification of this product everywhere, whom this product was addressed to as well as the Invoice number, amongst other details.

The fact is that there will always be a time in which both old and new Warranty Seals designs will exist at the same time in the markets. The length of time in which the two seals will coexist is not so easy to foresee because it depends on the stocks and on the rotation of the different products.

As a reference please find attached here a file of the aforementioned seal and the proper way of affixing it on the boxes, in jpg format.



Pranqster Beer Review – North Coast Brewing Company

A pioneer in the craft beer movement, North Coast Brewing Company opened in 1988 as a local brewpub in the historic town of Fort Bragg, located on California’s Mendocino Coast.

Under the leadership of Brewmaster Mark Ruedrich, the brewery has developed a strong reputation for quality having won more than 70 awards in national and international competitions.

In addition to Red Seal Ale, Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout, Scrimshaw Pilsner, and other fine North Coast brands, the brewery has resurrected the old Acme label with a heritage dating back to the San Francisco of the 1860’s.

These exceptional beers are available in 47 states now and also are exported to Europe and the Pacific Rim.

Their Pranqster Beer is touted as a Belgian Style Golden Ale and I have to say that it certainly doesn’t miss the mark!

North Coast Brewing’

s Pranqster is brewed with “antique” yeast to impart a delightful flavor that tastes just as good as a young Trappiste.

This Belgian-style ale is a dark straw color and pours with a very attractive white head and minimal lacing. In the mug, this beer has floral aroma with a pleasant hint of cloves. First mouthful is light and citrus with little bubbles that dance across the tongue in a most delightful way.

Eath mouthful of this beer is progressively more pleasant and I certainly enjoy the subtle hopping; making it an intersting blend of Belgian spiciness with a pleasant nod towards the IPA category. Yeastiness is certainly Belgian with a bready note when you breath in after a drink – not entirely unpleasant at all. The 7.6% ABV is subtle and contributes a nice body to the drink with pleasant mouth-feel and aftertaste. After a bottle or two, I noticed a slightly metallic aftertaste, but it passed when opening the next bottle, so one has to assume that it is an irregularity.

I finished 10 of these tonight (Just to be sure that I liked it) and I DO like it.

North Coast brewing company produces very fine beers, this one will be part of my regular rotation.


Bridgeport Ale House Food and Beer Review

Driving the Jag back from Alaska allowed for some entertaining food and beverage adventures. One of which was in Oregon.

The Bridgeport Ale House at 3632 SE Hawthorne Boulevard in  Portland is a fine little establishment offering decent pub fare and an excellent selection of specialty brews.

From their promotional literature:

The specialty beer movement in the Pacific Northwest began in 1984 when Richard and Nancy Ponzi teamed up with Karl Ockert, graduate of the University of California at Davis’ Malting and Brewing Sciences program, to establish the 600-barrel Columbia River Brewery. Setting up shop in a three-story, century-old former rope factory in Portland’s industrial Northwest neighborhood, they founded what is better known today as BridgePort Brewing Company, Oregon’s Oldest Craft Brewery™, and a pioneer of the state’s craft brewing revolution.

Today, BridgePort Brewing Company is one of the top specialty brewers in the state of Oregon. As BridgePort Brewing grew in popularity, it also grew in its brewing capacity from its 600-barrel beginnings to over 100,000 barrels per year. Distribution has grown from Portland to 18 states, and the brewery’s emphasis on producing quality, innovative ales has provided it with an international following and numerous awards.”

We walked into the Bridgeport Ale House expecting yet another tired faux-restaurant serving greasy food as an accompaniment to their selection of beers. Thankfully, we were wrong.

I chose their Cottage Pie and enjoyed an American slant on traditional pub lunch. Good beef, creamy potato and delicate seasonings. My traveling companies shared a “Steel Pizza Pie” which they described as perfectly crusted with a good balance of cheese and sausage. – I’m not a pizza pie man.

I wasn’t there to eat though…..I was there to drink!

I started with their bottled Kingpin – A red-ale that is very hoppy and easily drinkable. This “Double Red” is characterized by higher alcohol content and citrusy hoppy overtones – just the way I like it.

Next up was the Summer Squeeze – a seasonal varietal that is apparently enhanced with lemongrass and yuzu – an “exotic fruit. This missed the mark completely for me and tasted like a blend of heffeweizen and lemonade – I barely mad it through even half a glass.

I gave BridgePort the opportunity vindicate themselves with their famous Blue Heron Pale Ale – It did not disappoint. Typical of “Northwestern” Pale Ales, it is crisp and eminently drinkable.

Moving on to the Cafe Negro Porter, I tasted something pleasantly unique. This porter is a fusion of malt an coffe that created a delightully layored coffe/beer flavor. The porter deliver its own espresso-esque flavor, but the coffee infusion rounds it to make for a delightful drink. A predict a growler of this escaping into the wild…

I ended my excursion with “Hop Czar”, their Imperial IPA. This IPA definitely boasts 7.5% ABV and delivers a hoppy, malty mouth-feel  reminiscent of Belgian beers. This beer made my day.

As with many American establishments, they are not tobacco-friendly, but the good bears vindicated them.










Rocky Patel ‘The Edge’ Lite Review

This cigar has been taunting me for the last year and a half as it languished in my humidor. The Edge is a typical ‘strong’ Rocky Patel cigar, but the Lite version is designed for neophytes and those who prefer a smoother smoke. I enjoy strong sticks from time to time, but I invariably stray back to something milder for regular use.

I decided to smoke this little beauty today while on holidays in Alaska; I brought my trusty herf-a-dor and new colibri lighter along for the ride.

The Edge Lite is very nicely built; it feels solid and even. The Approx 5.5 – 6″ long 52 ring torpedo is like a long robusto, which makes for my ideal smoke lately, with my taste leaning towards the longer Churchills when time permits.

Prelight aroma is alfalfa and ammonia. Lighting thit vitola brought pleasant gray smoke. The Edge Lite is an easy smoke with an effortless draw the at time felt airy but not to the point of being irritating.I had to relight once due to high wind conditions, there was no bitterness at all. Ash was tight and dark gray.

Flavor is similar to a CAO Gold, just slightly stronger…Cream, coffee, and a mild peppery finish to remind you that this is indeed  a good cigar.

I ordered a box last night from the boys at CI.




Japanese Invasion

We’ve been on a sushi kick this week, so I drank far more Japanese beer and sake than I usually would:

Asahi Super Dry

The hype: “SUPER DRY went on sale in Japan on March 17, 1987. As soon as the product hit the store shelves, it became an instant bestseller. Sales expanded rapidly from major cosmopolitan areas to nationwide. While we were all convinced that we had achieved our goal of realizing the taste that the customer wanted, the actual production of SUPER DRY fell short of the growing demand. Once again, we had to take an unprecedented action: placing an apology in the newspapers for not producing SUPER DRY fast enough to meet the demand. The taste that the customer waited for Soaring sales and the popularity of SUPER DRY shook the beer industry in Japan. Other breweries also introduced dry beer in the following year, and so-called Dry Beer War broke out. Nonetheless, ASAHI SUPER DRY has continued to grow its sales, consistently being chosen for its original taste.  In response to an expanding demand for SUPER DRY, we pushed ahead with a large-scale capital investment in order to bolster our production. By 1990 all our production facilities were updated with most advanced technology and equipment. The revamping of production helped us supply more SUPER DRY, and its sales passed the milestone of 100 million cases* only 3 years after its introduction. *One case is equivalent to 20 large beer bottles, approximately 12.66 liters.  Since the launch of SUPER DRY, we have hitherto continued to improve on its production technology and quality management, and we have conducted various activities to bring the fresh and crisp taste of SUPER DRY to customers around the world. Our challenge and our search for innovation will go on to ensure that SUPER DRY tastes as good as ever.

The review: This pale lager pours very well and looks like any European lager. Aroma is hoppy with hints of pine and grass. This is pleasant and mild, the girlfriend liked it. Carbonation is medium-high, but not unpleasant. This is my favorite “Japanese” beer  so far. Nothing massively exciting, just like a Stella. This is one time where rice didn’t ruin a beer. I like this one for “light” drinking, but still prefer Stella.


Kirin Special Premium Reserve

The hype:With his gold label and Special Premium Reserve appellation, Ichiban outclasses and outperforms. In 1990, Ichiban’s debut made a splash in the world of super premium beers. The luxurious single wort (or first press) process yields a unique, complex flavor. With his gold label and “Special Premium Reserve” appellation, Ichiban outclasses and outperforms. But don’t be fooled by a snooty attitude — this is a great beer that goes with anything. What makes Ichiban great – Prominent wort. Finest barley malt, premium hops, smooth finish, no bitter aftertaste.”

The review: This is beautiful to look at, it is a straw yellow, develops a nice head of foam and looks great in a Pilsner, the iconic “glass of beer”. Aroma is mild, almost grassy, but not unpleasant. First sip reminds me of Stella Artois; crisp and clean. Aftertaste is slightly metallic, but not unpleasant. Carbonation is heavy and makes the mouth-feel pleasantly sharp.

Sapporo Imported

The hype: “With lush use of aroma hops, Sapporo Premium has an amazingly crisp taste, refreshing flavor, and refined bitterness to leave a clean finish.  Whether in our iconic \”Silver Can\” that is long loved by our American fans, in bottles, or on tap, Sapporo Premium can be enjoyed on any occasion.
*Sapporo Premium is not a gluten-free product.”

The review: Yes, you guessed it, straw-colored, white head, carbonated, crisp mild drinkable beer. This is not imported from Japan, it is made in California by Anheiser Busch.


I suppose growing up in IOM and the UK has conditioned my taste-buds; I prefer stronger ales and stouts, I find these Japanese beers too light for my general consumption. The Asahi is my favorite of the three, but none of them will find a place  in my home bar. The flavor profile of all three lends themselves well to consumption with fish, since they are very light and fizzy. I suppose that’s why they are served with Sushi. These beers are certainly better than many of the Mexican brews, but are just too light for me.

Victor Sinclair Primeros Churchill

I recieved a box of Victor Sinclair Primeros churchill cigars as a gift from a special friend. She told me there were her late husband’s favorite because they were so mild and pleasant.

I’ve left this box languising in my large gumidor for at least a year and today is the day to try one…

Packaging and presentation is classy and elegant, the cigars are all uniformly smooth with very little veinage. The ecuadorian connecticut wrapper is beautiful.

Prelight aroma is grassy with a hint of ammonia, like a milder cousin of the CAO gold. The stick is firm in hand and punches easily.

Toasting the foot liberates a pleasant and comforting blue smoke that immediately hints of the flavor profile; creamy and spicy.

First draw is quite effortless, smooth flavor fills my mouth and the cigar begins to yield a medium volume of white smoke as I continue to draw on it.

1st and 2nd third are identical, almost boringly so.

Final third of this cigar begins to concentrate flavor with a peppery infusion; leather and spice permeate with a hint of woodsmoke.

Overall smoking time is approximately 1 hour to the nub.

This is a nice mild cigar, it is probably too mild for some, but Isee this as a pleasant change of pace.

Squatters/Wasatch Bobsled American Brown Ale

The hype: Bobsled Brown is patterned as an American-style Brown Ale with a roasted malt undertone and the generous use of American-grown Willamette hops. This is one beer to be sure not to miss!

The review: When I’m in Salt Lake City, I enjoy visiting Squatters Brewpub and having a beer with friends or even visiting over diet Pepsi with my teetotalling Mormon friends. I enjoy most of the Squatters brews, especially their rauchbier and heffeweizen. I noticed and bought one of these at a little store in Phoenix today. I presume this has now been moved from the Squatters brand to Wasatch with their little merger/alliance that they’re doing. Bottle is pretty and packaging is inviting. Opening this produced an aroma of fresh bread dough with a hint of sourness. Pour was heady and dark amber. First sip was akin to burnt coffee with an oily aftertaste. Continuing to drink was an exercise in futility as it seemed to get worse with each sip.  I finally resigned this gastronomic assault after consuming half a glass. What a disappointment indeed.

Pinkus organic hefeweizen review

Pinkus organic hefeweizen is certainly a departure from the usual Hefei that I am accustomed to. The bottle is pretty, touting organic certification and extolling the virtues of the Brew.

This unfiltered beer pours well with a beautiful white head that certainly looks inviting. I refuse to garnish with citrus like most, so that I can truly appreciate the flavors of the brew…

This beer smells like yeast and bananas; taste is less striking than I had hoped for. This a pleasant beer that is best served chilled. It is refreshing and enjoyable.

Monchshof schwarzbier

Monschoff is one of the oldest beer brewing institutions in the world. Their Schwarzbier is one of my all-time favorites to enjoy at any time of year. This black beer looks like a stout, but it certainly doesn’t taste like one. This beer comes in a beautiful heavy bottle with old-school wire-tied cap. It definitely exudes old-world charm.

Opening the bottle unleashes a yeasty cocoa aroma with hints of coffee. The beer pours well with a deep dark color and medium foam. The first sip is yeasty without being overpowering…slightly fruity, but restrained. The mouthfeel of this beer isn’t as cloying as some other dark beers, it is much more refreshing, and crisper than you would expect.

I like this beer, in fact, I almost love it…Guinness still remains my favorite; but this is certainly a close second.

Abita Turbodog

The hype:Turbodog is a dark brown ale brewed with Willamette hops and a combination of pale, crystal and chocolate malts. This combination gives Turbodog its rich body and color and a sweet chocolate toffee-like flavor. Turbodog began as a specialty ale but has gained a huge loyal following and has become one of our flagship brews.

This ale pairs well with most meats and is great served with hamburgers or sausages. It is a good match with smoked fish and can even stand up to wild game dishes. Turbodog is also great for marinating and braising meats and cooking such things as cabbage and greens. Colby, Gloucester, Cheddar and Blue cheeses go nicely with Turbodog. It’s perfect with spicy Louisiana jambalaya or Spanish paella. Some even like it paired with chocolate!

The review: I love my Guinness, so whenever I get a chance to compare dark ales, I fall back to Guinness as a frame of reference. Turbodog hails from Louisiana and is one of many brews from the Abita beer company. I drank Turbodog from the bottle at a quaint little restaurant in Houston this week. The aroma from this beer is very intriguing; bready and sweet, but with a hint of coffee. The brew is dark and suds are creamy like the Irish stuff.  This is a 5.6% ABV brew so the alcohol isn’t obviously noticeable. First mouthful is hearty and slightly bitter, but quickly mellows into a chocolatey goodness. Mouth feel is pleasant; it is smooth and coats the tongue with yeasty flavors…it tastes a little like a chocolate babkawith a hint of espresso. Easy to drink and savor, but not a lightweight in the flavor department. I drank 6 of these over dinner with friends, so I suppose that says it all. Very nice beer.


Dow’s Trademark Finest Reserve Port review

This purple port epitomizes my vision of a ‘desert’ port. The nose is fruity with a hint of berries and caramel.

Swirling it around, there is a deep ruby body with minor tawny yellowing at the top. First mouthful is tannic and sweet without being cloying. Holding a mouthful draws in the cheeks without being completely astringent. The alcohol is there, but nicely balanced by the fruit and adds to the exciting mouthfeel.

Nosing this port further after a few mouthfuls and allowing it to warm in the snifter, it begins to exhibit a strawberry odor with a hint of banana and pears.

Continuing to drink I find even more fruitiness with a currant undertone; even hints of tobacco and leather…this would go very well with a CAO Brazilia anaconda. – Delicious!

How to detect fake wine and whisky

By UNIVERSITY OF LEICESTER  Friday, March 18, 2011

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Experts at the University of Leicester’s Space Research Centre are working with colleagues at De Montfort University to create a handheld device which will detect fake whiskey and wine — through the bottle.

The technology has already been developed by the University of Leicester team to spot counterfeit medicines by scrutinising the packaging. Now the experts are working to transfer the technology to analyze liquids in bottles.

As well as helping to stamp out the big problem of counterfeit whisky and fine wine, this could also have major potential for airline security systems, they believe.

The technique relies on detecting the differences between the characteristics of light reflected from printed packaging. Originally developed from a spectrometer designed and built by the Space Research Centre for astronomical research, the technique was adapted for use in the pharmaceutical world by the University of Leicester team in conjunction with university spin-out firm Perpetuity Research and Consultancy International Limited which is a specialist crime and security consultancy.

Now the technology is being adapted again by the University of Leicester team for use in detecting fake liquids, with experts at De Montfort University providing skills in product design and rapid proto-typing so that a handheld device can be created.

“The support from the Food and Drink iNet will allow us to take the technology and apply it in the case of whisky and fine wines,” said Tim Maskell, Knowledge Transfer Manager in the Space Research Centre at the University of Leicester. “The iNet funding will enable us to design, build and test a laboratory prototype that will allow us to prove the technology works. If we can then take the technology and do something similar with other liquids there are potential airport security opportunities too.”

For more information, please visit the University of Leicester at


Ayala’s Sparkling Herbal Water

The Hype: Ayala’s Herbal Water just got a little boost! Enjoy the smooth and refreshing herbal taste you love now enhanced with the sparkle and flutter of delicate bubbles in a 750ml elegant glass bottle. Bring on the sparkle… Buy a Sparkling Sampler Pack and experience three of our classic blends lightly carbonated for a pleasant sparkle.

Sparkling Lemongrass Mint Vanilla

Discover refreshment anew! A flood of gentle bubbles opens your palate to the cool kiss of spearmint, the citrusy zing of lemongrass, and the deep sweetness of vanilla. Drink it midday for a rejuvenating lift on life, and try it with all your favorite foods. This blend naturally complements East Asian cuisine and pairs well with Mediterranean fare.

Sparkling Cinnamon Orange Peel

Get your dose of sparkling sunshine! The citrusy-cinnamon medley comes to life in warm bursts of cinnamon and bright orange notes. It’s perfect all by itself and suits a variety of foods, especially spicy cuisines like Tex-Mex, traditional Mexican, and Indian.

Sparkling Ginger Lemon Peel

Try a bit of spritz and spice for your drinking delight! Enjoy the rush of spicy ginger and zesty lemon activating your taste buds bubble by bubble. This blend is a natural choice for sushi and other Japanese and Chinese dishes, and with a light lemony taste, it suits custards, pies, and other sweet-treats, too. Set a place for natural elegance … Whether it’s white linen or red gingham, there’s always room for Sparkling Ayala’s Herbal Water. A beautiful, frosted glass bottle and the refreshing aroma of culinary herbs create tabletop harmony for any meal.” The Review: I tasted the Sparkling Ginger Peel version at a friend’s house in Denver last week over a sushi dinner. Once I returned home, I ordered a couple of sampler packs to try all their flavors. Sparkling Ginger Lemon Peel is very subtle but the ginger flavor is definitely “there”, creating a great mouth-feel and making for a very refreshing drink that quickly cleanses the palate. Cinnamon Orange Peel is somewhat underwhelming. It tastes like someone left cinnamon stick overnight in a bottle of club soda. The “orange peel” tastes a little bland to me. This one was hard for me to drink. I don’t think it is worth $4 per bottle Sparkling Lemongrass Mint Vanilla is certainly different from what one would expect. I really like this one, since it reminds me of India. I enjoyed this with a chicken vindaloo and it rounded out the meal quite spectacularly. Ayala’s flavored waters are good. At $4/bottle, I’ll keep a few cases around but it’s certainly not an everyday drinker for me.

Cockburn’s Special Reserve Port

I read an intriguing review of Cockburn’s special reserve on Stogie Life. I’ve always been a fan of their 20-year old tawny, but still hadn’t tried the special reserve. I picked up a few bottles at the local vintner and headed home for a relaxing evening…

Cockburn’s touts their Special Reserve as follows: “Cockburn’s Special Reserve is the world’s favourite Port and a fitting testament to the blending skills of our winemaker.
Cockburn's Special Reserve
First blended over 40 years ago it offered wine drinkers a new style of Port. Four-fifths of the blend is from youthful wines but the remainder is from more mature wines which give the wine roundness and a seductive, velvety feel.

The overall effect is a vintage character Port, mellow and rounded on the palate with deep autumn fruit flavours.

It is produced from grapes grown in the spectacular higher reaches of the Douro river in northern Portugal. The wine is ready to drink and gentle filtration at the winery ensures that decanting is not necessary.

Special Reserve is in its element served with rich dark chocolate desserts, fruit tarts, berry or nutty puds, and complements most cheeses incredibly well.

After dinner, we settled down to enjoy port and some of my latest acquisitions from igourmet: Royal Blue Stilton, Butlers Blacksticks Blue, and Idiazabal. There are few things that I enjoy as much as wine & cheese; especially port!

Cockburn’s has now been purchased by the Symington family, so I am curious to see where they take the product line.

The Cockburn’s special reserve is a beautiful bottle with a mild nose: fruity, leathery, with a hint of spice. This port is dark in the glass almost purple. It looks like a blend of ruby and tawny (Appropriate, since it is classified as an aged ruby). I loved swirling it around watching the streaks slide down my glass…a hint of pleasures to come.

First sip of this Port is tannic which really enhances the mouth-feel for me. Grape flavor permeates, with hints of strawberry and clove, and a hint of anise. Aftertaste of this Port is medium to long and slightly bitter. As I continued to drink this port and intermix samples of the various cheeses, various flavor nuances manifested themselves. The tannin is extremely pleasant in cleansing the palate between courses. I particularly enjoyed pairing this for the Royal Blue Stilton; they compliment each other well.

This is a good Port, but I don’t think it warrants the ‘Special Reserve’ rating; I still prefer my Graham’s Six Grapes.

Cockburns Special Reserve

Alta Gracia Irish Creme Cigarillos Review

Alta Gracia Irish CreamThe hype:A wee bit of Irish goodness!  Alta Gracia means “High Grace.” Appropriately so because these little cigarillos are heavenly little smokes. Made in Ireland – the land of Saints & Scholars (not to mention Jameson, Guinness and Riverdance) – Alta Gracia cigars are one of a kind ’in-betweener’ smokes. They burn a tad hot toward the end but all the while exude a creamy tobacco flavor with a naturally sweet finish. Choose between Natural or Irish Crème and savor Alta Gracia’s smoothness. Perfect for a 10 minute smoke….besides, at under 40 cents apiece it’s hard to go wrong.”

The review: I bought a few boxes of these from my friends at Cigars International last year and they’ve been waiting patiently in the humidor for me. Just arrived home from a trip to Europe and the UK, looking for a quick smoke made me think of these little cigarillos.

I like having cigarillos on hand for a quick smoke when I don’t have the time to devote to enjoying a full-size cigar. I am often disappointed by little cigars because they tend to burn too hot or they have faux flavourings that can overwhelm the natural tobacco flavor and aroma. These little cigarillos appear to be very well made and are rolled in the traditional ‘cigarillo’ shape.

Prelight aroma is very pleasant; there is definitely a hint of whiskey, along with the grassy tobacco aroma of a well-cured cigar. I never did smell these when originally purchased so their aroma could also be a product of 12+ months of maturation in my well-stocked cedar humidor.

Lighting this cigarillo is easy with a torch lighter and it would light without problems if you just had a bic or a matchbook. The initial smoke smells very pleasant and hearkens to mild cigars like Ashton. First puff is mild and well-rounded without the bite that I would expect from a little stick like this.

It took me no more than 15 minutes to “slowly” puff this little beauty. Smoke aroma remained very pleasant and smelling it on my hands & clothing was not harsh or acrid at all. I was careful to slowly puff this one since I didn’t want to overheat it. It did get warmer towards the final third, but taking a moment to stop and let it relax was enough to get it under control.

A very enjoyable smoke and definitely one to keep on hand for a ‘quickie’.

Michel Cluizel – Noir au Cafe

After a hectic week in the UK, we rode the chunnel to France and enjoyed some fantastic culinary adventures. One place we visited was the Michel Cluizel chocolate boutique. Michel Cluizel chocolatier is a shop definitely worth visiting in Paris. A family-owned business since 1948, The Cluizel family fabricates their chocolate art at a small plant in Normandy and sell to the public at boutiques in Paris, New York, and Riyad.

Their artisinal craft is unparalleled, and it is very evident when shopping in their boutique that they’re proud of the product and it’s heritage.

As a cigar afficionado, I’m drawn to the strong flavor and aroma of dark chocolate. My biggest frustration with dark chocolate has always been finding one that has the right balance of cacao, alkalinity and sugar. My favorite has always been Cadbury’s Bournville, but I have now tasted something better…Michel Cluizel’s Noir au Cafe.

Noir au Cafe is touted as “Ground arabicas from Brazil and selected cocoas are blended in a deep chocMichael Cluizel - Noir au Cafeolate – coffee harmony: A superb balance of strengths and flavours“. The 100g bar is beautifully packaged in gold-colored  foil and cradled in a cardboard box that assures you that this is good quality chocolate. My friend translated the packaging to reveal that it is pure cocoa with bourbon vanilla and contains no soys or lecithin. The ingredients list is simple:

  • Cocoas
  • Cane Sugar
  • Cocoa Butter
  • Coffee Beans

The aroma is very inviting, with hints of espresso and cocoa. The chocolate is uniform in color without blooming or blemish.

Breaking a piece is easy, and it immediately coats the palate in chocolaty goodness. The chocolate is smooth without being plastic and has no graininess. There is a delightful balance of cocoa fat and sweetness, offset by the coffee to stimulate both bitter and sweet sensors at the same time, making it absolutely delicious! The 2nd,3rd,4th, and 5th pieces were just as great.I stopped at 5 because my “friends” had polished off the rest of the bar! I really liked the fact that there was a pleasant espresso aftertaste without the off-tasting bitterness you get from so many other dark chocolates.

I spent way too many Euros in this shop, but everything was simply scrumptious.

Tanqueray London Dry Gin

Tanqueray London Dry Gin - Made in ScotlandBeing a Brit, I’ve always considered Beefeater to be the only gin worth drinking, but I finally gave Tanqueray a try today and was most suitably impressed. I’m back in the UK this week visiting my parents and I asked for a G&T before dinner. The drink steward brought me what looked like a standard gin & tonic – Highball glass, ice,  carbonated liquid and a wedge of lime.

I brought it up to my nose and noticed it smelled considerably different to my standard beefeater version. This had a decidedly stronger juniper aroma and less citrus nose than I was accustomed . I queried the steward and he informed me that they only stock Tanqueray gin, since the owner of the club  is also Scottish. I decided that now was the time to explore Tanqueray…

Tanqueray is a reputable Gin brand, currently owned by  the Diageo group who is one of the powerhouses in the spirits industry. Tanqueray is named after it’s creator, Charles Tanqueray; who first distilled gin in 1830.

It is said that Gin was invented around 1650 in the Netherlands by Dr. Sylvuis. This man -who is also known as Franz de la Boé- was Professor of Medicine at Leyden, Holland. Originally, he intended this “medicine” as a remedy for kidney disorders. He used neutral grain spirits flavored with the oil of juniper. He called it genever after the French term genièvre meaning juniper. By 1655 it was already being commercially produced and English soldiers serving in the area, took affection to the spirit.

During most of the early 17th century, drinking in England had almost entirely involved fermented liquors, such as ale, cider and beer that were produced by “natural” processes. Distillation depends on an alcoholic liquid, such as wine or grain mash , being heated and the resulting vapor condensed, producing a  purer and more powerful form of alcohol, but quite unpalatable until flavoring ingredients have been added.  As a result of this new man-made process, it was suggested by some wags that spirits were “unnatural”, while beer and wine were not. Fermented beer was made by God, while spirits were made by man.

In 1688 King William III and some English soldiers in the Low Countries introduced gin to England. “In the alcohol ‘family’ gin stands close to absinthe and aquavit, which use different flavoring agents, and not far removed from vodka, which is based on potatoes”. English gin became very popular after 1690, when the government tried to make a market for low-grade corn unsuitable for brewing. The government heavily increased the duty on imported spirits and opened the spirit industry to the public, without any license or control. During the English reign of William and Mary1 (around 1689) home production of Gin was encouraged. Some sources claim that one reason for this was the fact that drinking Gin was safer than drinking water. Another factor of course was that production and distribution of Gin was rather cheap. The local landowners produced it as a by-product of grain and taxes were very low. As a result Gin was even cheaper than beer or ale. Thus, popularity spread, it became synonymous with the poor and abuse of the drink was rampant. In 1751 William Hogarth created the engraving ‘Gin Lane’ to display just how rampant the abuse really was.

Within a few years, 7,000 dram-shops sprang up all over England. As brewers tried to protect their trade, the number of ale-houses also multiplied. By 1740 more than 15,000 of the 96,000 houses in the capital sold drink, about 9,000 were gin-shops. Despite all the evidence that the ‘free gin’ policy had failed, the government did not act immediately. The new duties and taxes that had been imposed on manufacturers and retailers were avoided. The gin-shop owners would sell their drink under fancy names like ‘Cuckold’s Comfort’, ‘Ladies’ Delight’ and Knock-me-down’, a mixture of hot spiced ale and punch.

In 1736 the famous Gin Act was implemented. It imposed a prohibitive duty per gallon on the retailer and raised the cost of a spirit license. This legislation led to riots in the streets and the gin trade simple went underground. As a result, in 1743 the government loosened the restrictions of the earlier law and passed acts that permitted the gin-shops to abide by the same rules as the ale-houses. As the 19th century rolled in the focus of legislation shifted to containing the “moral danger” in drinking, instead of just the economic concerns of the earlier century. The Gin produced around that time was the forerunner of what was known as Old Tom’s Gin, which was heavily sweetened. In the 1870’s Dry Gin was introduced and Gin took on respectability in England once again. Finer establishments served “Pink Gins” (with angostura bitter) and the cocktail age dawned in England. About the same time prohibition began in the U.S.

During prohibition, the Americans used a different recipe to produce Gin: by taking the poisons out of denatured alcohol to recover the ethyl alcohol. This was then flavored with juniper, diluted, and bottled. The name for this was “bathtub gin” and it probably tasted like the name. There were seventy-five different formulas to denature the alcohol, so if the purification process was not done by a skilled chemist, vile, and even deadly results occuTony Sincliar - Tanqueray's Spokesmanrred. In those days the meaning of the line “to die for” was totally different from today’s meaning… A little more literal.

Gin and Tonics were -like Gin itself- originally developed as a medicine. In this case to help fight malaria. When the British were in the East they became susceptible to malaria and eventually found out that quinine (an ingredient in Tonic Water) was useful for getting rid of the disease. Well, as you would probably expect, drinking Tonic Water by itself is pretty nasty (unless you’ve acquired a taste for it) and they had problems getting the British in the East to drink it.

Along comes our friend Gin to be mixed with the Tonic Water, which not only made drinking it much more pleasant, but also created an excellent drink that would be remembered from then on, even if its relationship to the disease was forgotten. So, as you can see, Gin and Tonic Water came about due to medicinal reasons, then caught on later for thier more pleasurable aspects.

On a minor note, the Lime (served in any GOOD Gin and Tonic) being a citrus fruit (and therefore containing Vitamin C) helps to prevent scurvy. Usually the limes are not the dominant ingredient of Gin and Tonic, so they won’t actually get rid of scurvy if you’ve already got it – unless you drink A LOT of Gin and Tonics of course.

Coriander, angelica and Juniper are listed as the primary botanicals used to give Tanqueray its unique flavor, but the company declares that there are numerous other ingredients that are “inconveniently sourced from around the world”.

After two more G&T’s, I had him bring  me the bottle to try it straight to separate the flavors from the tonic & lime. Tanqueray smells wonderful neat, with notes of juniper and citrus. The first sip is very strong, and the alcohol shows through boldly, obscuring some of the flavor. Letting it sit in the mouth and breathing in allowed me to better appreciate the flavors and aromas of the essential oils. – Magnificent!

I really like the stuff, it is my new favorite gin.

Sincerely Sauvignon Blanc 2007 Review

“Sincerely” is a lively Sauvignon Blanc from South Africa.  Hailing from the Neil Ellis stable in Stellenbosch, this wine is one of the more exciting offerings from South Africa.

From their website:

Neil Ellis Wines differs from most South African wineries in that instead of owning vineyards we have focused on producing the best wine possible and sourcing the grapes from top quality growers.

Recognizing that different grape varieties thrive under different soil and climate conditions which are not likely to be found on a single estate, from our company’s start our philosophy has been to locate those areas that produce a distinctive grape quality and work closely with quality-minded growers in those areas. Today our grapes come from three main vineyard sites: Oude Nektar Farm in Jonkershoek, Stellenbosch; Contreberg Farm in Groenekloof, Darling; the Whitehall farm in Elgin.

Oude Nektar Farm, Jonkershoek, Stellenbosch

The 40ha of vines on Oude Nektar are the primary source for our red wines. Most of Jonkershoek Valley is a nature reserve, well-known for its fynbos, hiking trails and waterfalls, but at the mouth of the valley sit a few farms privileged to its unique micro-climate. The inner valley is known to have the highest rainfall in South Africa and in an average year Oude Nektar receives about 1200mm (although in the last three years of drought we have been closer to 900mm). The soils are mostly deep, red, clay soils. We initiated a complete replanting program in 1989 which was completed this year with a final 3-hectare block of shiraz.

Contreberg Farm, Groenekloof, Darling

Recognizing the unique quality of the grapes from the Groenekloof ward, in 1996 Neil Ellis Wines entered into a partnership with Alex Versveld to farm the 120ha Contreberg farm which is the source of our Groenekloof Sauvignon Blanc. Groenekloof is situated near Darling on the West Coast and here the hills rise to 385 metres above sea level. The vineyards are only 8 km from the cold Southern Atlantic with its cool prevailing southwesterly winds. Soils are deep, red, decomposed granite and produce lively, complex Sauvignon Blanc wines. This area has particularly consistent weather.

Whitehall Farm, Elgin
Elgin is the Cape’s coolest viticultural area (Region I-II on the Winkler system) and has a unique climate and topography, consisting of an upland basin plateau, surrounded by mountain ranges on all sides. This region shows climatic similarities to Burgundy, only slightly cooler by comparison. Elgin tends to show more vintage difference than most other South African viticultural areas.

This 2007 Sauvignon Blanc is surprisingly good. The nose is very pleasant with hints of a meadow in springtime.  The flavor of this wine is light and crisp with strong notes of apple, straw, melon and a hint of citrus. Finish is strong yet clean, making it a great value at $17/bottle.

Graham’s 10 Year Tawny Port

From the importer:Graham’s wines come primarily from its own Quinta dos Malvedos, Quinta do Tua and Quinta das Lages in the Rio Torto. Two others, privately owned by a member of the Symington family, Quinta da Vila Velha and Quinta do Vale de Malhadas, also supply Graham with finest quality grapes. All five Quintas are among the best in the
upper Douro valley. Graham’s also buys grapes from selected farmers in the finest districts. Some of these farmers have been selling their grapes to Graham’s for generations.

Peter Symington, responsible with his son Charles for the vineyards and wine making, has been made ‘Fortified Wine Maker of the Year’ an extraordinary 6 times by the ‘Wine Challenge’. Nobody else has won this important award more than once. In 2003, his son Charles won the same award.

Graham’s 10 Years Old is made from wines of the very highest quality which, following careful selection, are matured in seasoned oak casks of 534 litres until their peak of maturity is reached. These are among the most demanding and challenging styles of Port to produce requiring great skill and years of experience from the winemaker and blender. It is essential to strike the correct balance between the delicacy and elegance which results from prolonged cask ageing while retaining the fruit quality which lends this old Tawny its structure and longevity.

Graham’s 10 Years Old Tawny is a perfect match to sweet pastries, such as apple pie with cinnamon. Taste slightly chilled to appreciate the full complexity and sensuous pleasure of this wine. An excellent alternative to Vintage Port at less formal occasions. Will keep for some weeks after opening.

Graham's 10-year tawny portThe review: I love Port! There are few drinks that you can enjoy in so many different situations as a fine Port wine. I’ve always enjoyed Graham’s, since their aged port’s aren’t frightfully expensive but taste fantastic. This 10-year Tawny is a great “everyday” port. The 10-year is an indication of the average age of the wines in the bottle, so don’t be mistaken into thinking that this is a 10-year vintage. Nonetheless, it tastes great, isn’t harsh, and has a great finish. This Port is sweet with a distinct fruity flavor, which makes it great for after-dinner or as a pick-me up in warm weather after a long day at work.

This port decants well, and has no sediment to be concerned about. The Port has a fruity nose with a warm, velvety  mouth-feel that hearkens to a more genteel time. The finish is sweet and lingering, with hints of grape, currants, maple syrup, plums, and raisins. 20%ABV makes this a fun after-dinner drink and tastes spectacular drizzled over ice cream.

Travel Herf-a-Dor by Humi-Care – Killing the odor

The Travel Herf-a-Dor by Humi-Care is a great product. It is completely waterproof, crush-proof and compact, allowing you to transport 5 Churchill-length cigars with ease.

I like this humidor, but there is one HUGE problem – it stinks! The humidor has a stench of plastic that permeates the foam. I tried leaving it in the sun for a day, I filled it with baking soda, I placed activated carbon in it; all to no avail.

Finally, out of desperation I filled it with 5 CAO Moontrance cigars and left it on the rear shelf of the Jaguar for a week. That certainly did the trick – there is no longer a plastic odor, just a very pleasant tobacco scent with hints of vanilla – most pleasant indeed.

I now take this humidor everywhere with me and always keep it stocked with a few of my favorite vitolas.

5 Vegas Gold Robusto review

The hype – “Welcome to the Golden Era of 5 Vegas (pronounced “cinco vegas”). Made with a hearty blend of premium tobacco leaves from Honduras that have been aged a full 5 years and a satiny Grade A Connecticut Shade wrapper leaf, the 5 Vegas Gold is your answer for a full-flavored cigar that’s mild in strength. Light one up and experience a joyride of smooth flavors. It opens with some zest, a combination of toasted nuts and subtle spice, then develops a soothing creaminess that coats the palate, making the initial spice an afterthought. Not a harsh note can be found as the cigar burns, and each puff releases a velvety cloud of blueish-white smoke. The Honduran-made 5 Vegas Gold is just right. Mild enough for everyone to enjoy, and enough character to please palates of all levels. Overall, this welcome addition to the steadfast 5 Vegas name is a wonderful cigar that just may become a part of your every day rotation.

The review – I went to visit my sister in California this week. She and her family live on a golf course in Malibu and are typical SoCal yuppies. She thinks tobacco is evil and despises the odor. It is a constant point of contention between us. She wouldn’t even let me bring my cigars into her house! I had to leave them in my Jag inside the travel herf-a-dor which performed flawlessly.

I finally tired of the domestic menagerie and went for a walk along the golf course. I took a 5 Vegas gold robusto with me to keep me company.

The 5 Vegas gold robusto is a well-built cigar. The connecticut shade wrapper is smooth and flawless, adding a touch of class to this Honduran beauty. Prelight aroma is alfalfa and clover, with a hint of cut grass. I toasted the foot and drew gently on it to entice the first flavors.

The initial draw was bitter with a slight pepper tingle. I drew a few more and let it rest for a minute. The process continued over 10 minutes before I felt any improvement in flavor, which is rather disappointing.  Once I passed the initial roughness, the flavor mellowed and was quite enjoyable. While described a full-flavored, I found the flavor to be rather mild and creamy. I really enjoyed the aroma of the smoke, it smells like a higher end cigar. I smoked this one to the nub and had a nice nicotine buzz. So the 5 Vegas robusto is a mild flavored cigar with a full-bodied kick – not too shabby and good value for the money.

Thompson Cigar – Bagatelle Robusto Review

The hype“Bagatelle is a wonderful example of the art of the Dominican hand roller. They start with a super delicious blend of double-aged San Vicente Olor fillers and binders. When a manufacturer is serious about the taste of his smoke, he gives the binder serious consideration. This combination of long fillers and mild-tasting binders is topped off with a magnificent Sumatra wrapper. Under different labels, Bagatelle is the exact same cigar that brings $3 to $4 in stores. You’ll likely find Bagatelle virtually indiscernible from cigars for which you’re accustomed to paying much more.”

The ReviewI try to always let my palate guide me when reviewing a cigar. I don’t care if it was free, or cost me $100/stick; all I care about is flavor. This Bagatelle was free to me, but I still treated it well and allowed it to rest in my humidor for over a year to help it mature. The cigar feels good in hand and has a comfortable weight to it. Firm with a little give it looks and feels like a well-made smoke. Prelight aroma is pleasant with a hint of barnyard and clover. I punched the cigar, toasted it and then lit it. The cigar produced a voluminous cloud of very pleasant gray smoke and I took my first puff…First draw was rough and bitter. After a few puffs, the flavor mellowed and reminded me a little of a CAO gold. Draw was a little tight, but not unreasonable. Ash was loose gray and slightly uneven, The first third was enjoyable, but after that the stick took a dramatic turn for the worse. Bitter aftertaste, acrid smoke and strange odors permeated. I blew through it, let it rest for a minute and tried again…Still horrible. I gave up on this one and tossed it. Very disappointing experience, but I guess I can’t complain for the price.

Graham’s Six Grapes Port Review

The hype:Six Grapes is one of Graham’s original Port marques. It is a big-hearted wine, sourced from the same vineyards (essentially Quinta dos Malvedos and Quinta das Lages) that contribute to Graham’s famed Vintage Ports in ‘declared’ years. As such, it closely resembles Graham’s Vintage Port style: full-bodied, with rich opulent black fruit on the palate and fragrant brambly aromas. We think of it as the ‘everyday Port for the Vintage Port drinker.’ Six Grapes is bottled relatively young (between 3 and 4 years) in order to retain the freshness and vigour comparable to a young Vintage Port.

The distinctive depiction of grape bunches on the bottle is taken from the identification symbols long used in the Graham’s lodge to identify the wines destined to make up the Six Grapes blend.

Six Grapes has won a remarkable 3 gold medals at the International Wine Challenge, most recently, in the 2006 edition of this, the world’s biggest and most prestigious wine competition.

The Symington Family are descended from Andrew James Symington and Beatrice Atkinson who were married in Oporto in 1891. Andrew James arrived as a young man from Scotland in 1882. Beatrice Atkinson was descended from John Atkinson who had lived in Oporto since 1814, and both her father and uncle were Port producers. On her mother’s side, Beatrice Atkinson was a direct descendent of the 17th century Port merchant, Walter Maynard, English Consul in Oporto in 1659. He is recorded in the official archives of the city of Oporto as shipping 39 Pipes of Port in 1652. This is the second oldest shipment of Port (by one year) ever made by a British merchant and pre-dates the foundation date of any British Port company.

Thus the Symington family’s ancestry in the Port trade spans a period of over 350 years, through 13 generations, from Walter Maynard to the present generation of Symingtons, who are owners and managers of Graham’s and the family’s other Port companies. With their roots long established in northern Portugal, the Symingtons have gained a wealth of experience as producers of Port and have shown the resilience to withstand the upheavals of history, from revolutions and world wars to difficult trading conditions which drove numerous families out of the Port business altogether. No other family involved in Port production today possesses such an unbroken lineage, stretching right back to the very beginnings of Port.

Currently five members of the Symington family (from the 13th generation in the Port trade) are actively involved in Graham’s day to day management, with the dedication and long-term commitment that are unique to a family-run business. From the vineyards through the winemaking, ageing and blending, a member of the family is directly responsible for every bottle of Graham’s Port produced. The family’s commitment to its wines is stronger than ever after 350 years, an unparalleled tradition in the Port trade.

Besides Quinta dos Malvedos, Grahams flagship vineyard, held by the company itself, the Symingtons are individually significant owners of vineyards in the Douro Valley. Each member of the family has vineyards that he or she owns privately and manages. The grapes from these vineyards are supplied to Graham’s. This extent of private family vineyard ownership is unique to the Symingtons in the Port trade. In none of the other principal Port companies do the partners or owners possess vineyards directly as is the case with the Symingtons. This reflects the family’s centuries-long dedication to the Douro and to its wines.

During the vintage, family members spend most of their time in the Douro Quintas, determining when to pick the grapes, supervising vinification, while at the same time often hosting visitors from all around the world. Members of the next generation of the family have already spent time during their school and university holidays working both in the Malvedos winery and in the lodge in Gaia.

The Symingtons’ unmatched experience acquired over the centuries affords a special understanding of the Upper Douro vineyards as well as an unrivalled expertise, which they apply to the production of consistently outstanding wines. W & J Graham & Co. is 100% owned by the Symingtons and along with the family’s other firms it is the only remaining Port producer of British origin in the hands of a single family.

The Symingtons are members of the exclusive Primum Familiae Vini, a grouping of eleven leading wine families in the world. Fellow members are Antinori, Joseph Drouhin, Egon Muller Scharzhof, Hugel, the Perrins of Beaucastel, Mouton Rothschild, Pol Roger, Sassicaia, Torres, and Vega Sicilia. The criteria for membership of this highly prestigious association is simple; all members have to be entirely family owned and they must have been for many years amongst the finest producers of their respective wine regions, with an outstanding international reputation. Very few can achieve these qualifications.

The review: Well to say that I am biased to Grahams is certainly an understatement; I love Graham’s entire stable of fine fortified wines, from the their while all the way through their rubies, LBV’s, select vintages and Colheitas.This bottle is beautiful, it just exudes the charm and personality that once has come to expect from high quality port like this.

Opening this bottle produces a heady aroma of plum and grape that is sweet, but not cloying. I enjoyed this in a large snifter to maximize the aroma and I was not disappointed; along with grape overtones, there are hints of melon, nutmeg and tobacco.

First sip has a markedly tannic backbone with acidic mouth-feel that enlivens the palate. This port is 20% ABV so it has enough bite without being overpowering. Savoring each sip allows more flavors to be unmasked; plum, slight citrus and a hint of aniseed in the aftertaste.

I particularly enjoy the lingering aftertaste of this port, since it doesn’t taste musty, it is uniformly pleasant. Licking one’s lips while imbibing further enhances the experience, since cherry flavor seems to linger on the lips and rim of the glass. My only critique of this fine port is that the bottles are never quite big enough. Kudos to the Symingtons!

Macanudo Gold Label Duko of York Review

The hypeThe Macanudo Gold cigar is a limited edition line of Macanudo cigars that adds an exclusive, innovative flavor to the nation’s best selling first-class cigar trademark. The Macanudo series is famous for its smoothness and consistency, whereas at the same time presenting diverse flavors to satisfy all tastes. The latest Macanudo cigar, the Macanudo Gold cigar, employs an exceptional golden Connecticut Shade wrapper to generate a characteristic, new flavor for first-class cigar smokers. The Macanudo Gold cigar is hand made with a golden wrapper from the first and second priming of Macanudo cigar’s especially grown Connecticut Shade crop, Macanudo Gold cigars are set apart with a natural sweetness. The wrappers are gracefully slender, however extraordinarily supple with superior veins. Their quality is particularly smooth, with no a hint of graininess. “Capa Especial” is the Spanish phrase for this wrapper of unusual tastes which, when mixed with filler and binder tobacco of harmonizing character, results in a premium cigar that lives up to the tradition of superiority that is a Macanudo cigar.”

macanudo logo

The review – This cigar has a blended filler of Dominican and Mexican tobaccos that are wrapped in a Connecticut shade wrapper. Macanudo carefully ages all their leaf

This is a very handsome cigar indeed. I’ve had a box of these beauties languishing in my humidor for about 3 years. Today was the day to see how well they have aged. I poured a glass of filtered water from my Smart Bottle system and settled in with my morning paper and this delightful robusto.

This is just a beautiful vitola, from the brown wrapper with delicate veinage to the firm texture and delightful prelight of alfalfa and cedar this one just oozes quality and class.

This cigar lit very easily and draw effortlessly while enveloping me in a beautiful haze of smoky delight. The smoke from this cigar is just classic goodness; gray and billowing while slightly acrid yet very comforting and soothing. The Duke of York yielded a delightfully spicy creamy flavor that  intensified after the 1st third. After 40 minutes of mildness, approaching the middle of the cigar I detected a hint of pepper that just added to the pleasure of the experience. After an hour, the flavor turned to toast and earth while still maintaining a pleasant mildness.

This is a great morning cigar that everyone should enjoy.

Montecristo No. 2 Torpedo (Piramide) Review

ci_MONTE_No2The Montecristo No.2 Piramide is a great Cuban cigar. After I left England and came to the USA, my access to these little beauties became somewhat limited. Our firm recently completes a labor-intensive project for a client in Canada and I was pleasantly surprised to have a box arrive via FedEx today. A hand-written thank you card was attached to a beautiful box of 25 of these Habana beauties.

The sticks slightly moist from storage, but I decided to indulge in one immediately to satisfy my hunger for Cuban goodness. The stick is well-constructed, firm and beautiful. This one was a little spongy from the extra humidity, but not moist enough to preclude me from smoking it.

Prelight aroma is moist earth and alfalfa with a hint of chocolate. I clipped the cap with my Xicar cutter and then fired it up. The cigar took light easily and created a light gray smoke that smelled great. Draw was effortless and I was soon surrounded by thick gray/white smoke and enjoying a mild spicy flavor that brought back  pleasant memories of my misspent youth. The cap produced a pleasant tingle and was quite neutral in taste. This particular cigar burned quite evenly and went out after about one inch, which is something that I attribute to the excessive humidity. After cutting off the first 1.25″ I lit it again and babied it the rest of the way, which resulted in a more even burn and an impressive gray ash that lingered over 2″ before dropping off. The flavor certainly intensified after the first half, more so than I remember. The smoke delivered overtones of cedar, spice and dark chocolate with increasing pepper until I was well into the final 3rd. Approahing the end, the draw became slightly bitter for a few moments and I noticed tar accumulation at the tip – I’ve never seen that on a No. 2 before so I suspect the excess humidity is again to blame.  I’m glad I had my trusty filtered water available to cleanse the palate as the bitterness lingered for a while. I let the stick rest for  a few minutes and tried again, blowing through it gently and snipping the cap slightly to remove the accumulated tar. The flavor improved significantly and I smoked this one down to the nub with great pleasure. Total smoking time was almost two hours, further evidence of a great experience. I’ll let the rest of the box normalize in the humidor for at least 6 months before I try another just to be safe. No sense in wasting these beauties. If you can get genuine Montecristo No. 2’s then don’t hesitate – you will not be disappointed.

Occidental Reserve Double Broadleaf Churchill Review

The Hype“Occidental Reserve cigars are handmade, long-filler cigars created by Hendrik Kelner. Occidental Double Maduro is made from gorgeous double maduro Broadleaf wrappers grown in Ecuador, along with a Connecticut-grown Broadleaf binder and a long-filler combination of Dominican Piloto Cubano and Dominican Olor tobaccos. Naturally fermented for an extensive period, this wrapper combines to create an exceptionally rich, sweet and creamy taste. Medium-bodied.”

The Review – The Occidental Reserve Double Broadleaf  is a unique looking cigar. Veiny, toothy, and slighly irregular I was concerned that I wouldn’t have a good experience with it. I noticed the filler appeared to be a few shades lighter than the wrapper so I wasn’t expecting it to be too harsh. The Churchill felt slightly spongy in hand, but that’s probably just because I keep my Maduros around 72% in their own little humidor.  The prelight aroma was mild but intriguingly complex with hints of alfalfa, chocolate and a slight ammonia undertone.  I punched the cap with my narrow bullet cutter &  lit it using my new Colibri jet lighter and I was soon treated with delightful blue smoke cloud that smelt delightful. Very old-world.

The first puff was slightly harsh, but not disturbing to me. I kept puffing on it, but the draw was very tight. I pulled out my larger diameter punch that I use on my Robustos. This punch is barely 1/8″ wider than my narrow punch, but that did the trick. The cigar suddenly opened up to an effortless draw and yielded an intense coffee flavor. The 1st third of this cigar was delightful with pepper and cedar highlights. Ash on this stick was a medium gray that ran about 1.5″ and was flaky and irregular, but not so much that it was distracting or unpleasant.

Coming into the middle, the flavor mellowed even further and was leathery with oak and spice that smelled even better and was very satisfying. The finish of this cigar was so pleasant, I almost burnt my fingers on the nub. This is definitely one I will add to the list of “must-haves”.

Viking Beef – Sirloin Strip

I’m a man who appreciates fine flavors and aromas. I’m highly selective about my booze, my women, my cigars, and especially my food. I believe that I’m a true foodie; I enjoy choosing, preparing and eating fine foods. Since I travel a lot I get to sample flavors all over the world so my palate has been challenged by a number of interesting flavors…

I am especially partial to beef. Not the trash you buy at the supermarket, but artisan beef that has been carefully butchered and properly aged. I’ve tried many types of beef: angus, piedmontese, holstein, charolais, beefmaster, longhorn, brahman, limousin, maine anjou, hereford, simmental and of corse the wagyu (kobe). I’ve also experimented with organic, grass-fed, corn-fed, and even grass-fed/corn finished and come to some profound conclusions:

1. Different breeds of cattle do actually taste different.
2. Cattle taste like what they eat.
3. Proper dry aging makes a world of difference.
4. NEVER overcook beef.
5. Don’t drown beef with crazy rubs and overwhelming spices, let the seasonings compliment the real beef flavor not mask it.

My good friend (and fellow foodie) Greg gave me a sample-pack of “Viking Beef”. His friend owns the Viking Cattle Company, a Utah-based beef company. Greg wanted my opinion on whether this beef was good enough to market nationally.

What apparently makes “Viking” beef different is that the herd is a genetically controlled Friesland hybrid. I had to do some research on the Friesland breed as relating to beef, since I though tit was a dairy cow. Apparently the Friesland and the Holstein are “sister” breeds that originated from an area which is now in Holland. In the USA, the term “Holstein” generally refers to a high producing dairy cow that originated in Europe but now is exclusively American. The term “Friesian” refers to European stock beef cattle known for their large frame and medium yield of beef. So live and learn, I always though the black-and-white cows were for milk only, not beef.

Although I prefer buying beef fresh from the butcher, it’s hard to do that these days, especially with premium beef from far-away places. Greg sent the beef frozen with dry ice in a Styrofoam cooler and it arrived without a hitch yesterday. All the cuts were packaged cleanly and labeled so it was easy for me to choose some cuts to experiment with.

I left the sirloin steak to thaw overnight in my refrigerator and cooked it up today. My initial impression of the beef was upon unwrapping it. There was none of the fishy odor so commonly associated with “freezer beef”. My rancher buddies tell me the fishy flavor is from feedlots where they add animal byproducts to the feed during the “finishing” process.

The steak was uniformly red without showing brown spots, so evidently the aging was done properly. According to their website they age from 14-21 days. I’m a fan of dry aging to increase tenderness and enhance the natural flavor of the beef.

I rubbed the steak lightly with extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt and cracked black pepper. After letting it rest for 30 minutes, I broiled it in the oven about 6″ from the heating element in a pre-heated iron skillet.

This steak certainly smells fantastic during cooking, it has strong savory overtones and I started to salivate after just a few minutes. After cooking each side for slightly over 7 minutes I could barely contain myself. This cut cooked up beautifully, exhibiting a light brown pigment with none of the disgusting gray so common with cheaper cuts of beef.

I slid the steak gently onto my warmed plate and prepared for the promised culinary delight. I chose a nice NorthStar Merlot to accompany the meal.

My first cut into the steak surprised me, it was firm but yielding demonstrating the tenderness of the beef. Mouth-feel of this beef is very good, it wasn’t greasy or rubbery and yielded a complex juicy flavor.

It is clear to me that this beef is higher in iron than some of the other breeds like piedmontese or brahman. I demolished this steak in record time while still trying to pace myself and enjoy the flavors.

So how would I describe this steak?

  • It is tender, but not as tender as wagyu or piedmontese
  • It is delicious with a complex, rich beefy flavor that definitely beats angus and many of the other beef breeds
  • It is making me hungry for more

I’ll report on the other cuts as I try them, but so far I really like the Viking Beef!

I smoked a genuine Cuban Romeo y Julietta Belicosos after dinner to reward myself, I’ll post that review later….It was a good day.

Best Lawyer Story of the Year!

This took place in Charlotte , North Carolina

A lawyer purchased a box of very rare and expensive cigars, then insured them against, among other things, fire. Within a month, having smoked his entire stockpile of these great cigars, the lawyer filed a claim against the insurance company. In his claim, the lawyer stated the cigars were lost ‘in a series of small fires.’ The insurance company refused to pay, citing the obvious reason, that the man had consumed the cigars in the normal fashion.

The lawyer sued and WON!
(Stay with me.) Delivering the ruling, the judge agreed with the insurance company that the claim was frivolous. The judge stated nevertheless, that the lawyer held a policy from the company, in which it had warranted that the cigars were insurable and also guaranteed that it would insure them against fire, without defining what is considered to be unacceptable ‘fire’ and was obligated to pay the claim. Rather than endure lengthy and costly appeal process, the insurance company accepted the ruling and paid $15,000 to the lawyer for his loss of the cigars that perished in the ‘fires’.

NOW FOR THE BEST PART… After the lawyer cashed the check, the insurance company had him arrested on 24 counts of ARSON!!! With his own insurance claim, and testimony from the previous case being used against him, the lawyer was convicted of intentionally burning his insured property and was sentenced to 24 months in jail and a $24,000 fine. This true story won First Place in last year’s Criminal Lawyers Award
contest. “

I don’t know if the story is really true, but I thought it was pretty funny

Arturo Fuente Anejo Reserve No. 49 Review

The hypeArturo Fuente Anejo is one of the world’s rarest cigars. It features a dark maduro wrapper that is aged in cognac barrels. The Fuente name is no stranger to cigar enthusiasts both at the novice and aficionado levels. For generations, they have been producing the best tobacco and the best cigars in the Dominican Republic. After the hugely successful launch of their coveted Opus X cigar, a new idea was born. This idea was for a cigar that uses the very best Dominican filler and binder, but adds a 5-year-old Connecticut maduro wrapper aged in a cognac barrel. The cigar became known as Fuente Anejo (extra Viejo). Fuente Anejo is a full-bodied Dominican cigar with unique aging process that leaves a very distinct finish on the palate. Typically, only available around Fathers Day and Christmas, this cigar is one of the hardest to find and exclusive cigars in the world. While this line features several different sizes, it is also home to one of the world’s most famous shapes, the No. 77 or shark as it is commonly referred to. It was the first torpedo shaped cigar ever rolled so it progresses from a rounded parejo shape to a square press. This size is particularly rare.

The review – I visited the Casa Fuente store in Las Vegas today. Although not as large as my local tobacconist, it definitely has a well-stocked humidor and has an inviting atmosphere that is friendly to smoker and non-smoker alike. I spent way too much money there, but hey when in Vegas…I decided to smoke the Anejo Reserve in their enclosed patio area while waiting to meet some friends. My drink of choice was bud light.

This cigar is simply beautiful, it has a firm feel in hand and smells fantastic, with hints on cognac and aged-tobacco. The cigar lights easily and has a delightful aroma – earthy and nutty while enveloping me in a cloud of earthy goodness. The cigar burns evenly and draws uniformly. The maduro wrapper imparts a unique sweetness to this cigar and definitely gives it a strong taste and mouth-feel. The first few puffs are harsh and take a minute to become accustomed to. After a few minutes, the flavor mellows out beautifully and has a definite sugary overtone, almost like molasses. Like a good woman, this cigar certainly gets better over time. The flavor profile is definitely complex, invoking a blend of nuts, aniseed, coffee, and leather. Ash on this cigar is textbook – firm white and lingering well over an inch and a half. Smoking time exceeded an hour as I sat in the emporium watching the world go by, enjoying the Fuente family’s exquisite craftsmanship. The nub is slightly harsh, but still very enjoyable. Friends whisper that this is the same as an Opus-X. While the Anejo Reserve does taste a lot like the overpriced Opus-X, I think it is actually better and a significantly different flavor profile that warrants keeping a box of these around.

Rocky Patel Vintage Connecticut 1999 Churchill Review

The hypeThis well constructed churchill is 7 inches long and 48 ring gauge. The Rocky Patel Vintage Connecticut 1999 Churchill is aged seven years and is a smooth multi – country blend. The genuine Connecticut wrapper finishes off construction made from a Nicaraguan binder, and a blend of Dominican and Nicaraguan fillers. The Rocky Patel Vintage Connecticut 1999 Churchill presents flavors of nuts, mild spice, wood and a creamy finish tops it all off and makes the flavor enjoyable for hours. The mild strength and good flavor make this a great morning cigar. The Rocky Patel Vintage Connecticut 1999 Churchill is a good choice for smokers of every preference.”

The reviewI bought a box of these from and I decided to share them with some of my friends today. These, like every Rocky Patel are very well-packaged and look as inviting as any premium cigar should. The cigar is firm and well-made with a delightful prelight aroma that hints of the mild goodness that awaits…This stick lit very easily and I was enjoying billowing clouds of white smoke in no time. The draw was effortless and the first puff was mild and nutty, coating my palate with creamy goodness. I found this cigar to be very mild, safe for a beginner but flavorful enough that any aficionado would enjoy it. While some of my friend disagreed and though this was more medium-bodied, one thing that my friends and I agree on is that while tasty, this cigar lacked the complexity one would expect from a Rocky Patel. The flavor of this stick was leathery, nutty and creamy throughout – all the way to the nub. I don’t mind that it had such a uniform taste, I’m just a little surprised. Great cigar, good for any occasion or experience level.

CAO Black VR ‘Mural’ Review

The Hype – “Just when you thought you’ve tried them all, CAO goes and does something like this…the CAO Black ’VR’, a delicious extension to the insanely popular CAO Black line. Dark, daring and downright delightful, the CAO Black ’VR’ boasts a jet-black Brazilian wrapper to generate a wealth of flavor. An initial burst of coffee bean smacks the palate only to be tamed by a rich, super-smooth aftertaste. Midway through, a zesty note hits the tongue and nose while the finish becomes slightly sweet. And then, the inevitable nub. Medium to full-bodied and loaded with toasty, rich flavors. The burn is razor sharp, producing a bright white ash and volumes of thick, blue smoke. Truly amazing.”

The Review – I won a box of these off at an insanely good price. I’m a big fan of the CAO brand and enjoy the quality of their products. This is a corona-sized flavor explosion that I definitely underestimated!

The cigar is firm in the hand and prelight aroma is earthy and nutty with hints of ammonia. Once I got rid of the irritating foot band, this cigar lit very easily and burned uniformly for about 45 minutes. First draw was smooth and the blueish smoke quickly enveloped me in earthy goodness. The smoke is strong, definitely not high on the spousal acceptance factor. The first taste was burnt toast, but as a puffed at it, the flavor mellowed to a firm espresso that was quite enjoyable. Half-way through, a hint of pepper emerged and flavor started to intensify. Approaching the final third, I had to put it down and let it rest as the flavor had intensified to the point of being slightly unpleasant. After a few minutes I resumed and enjoyed a strong, but satisfying finish. Firm gray ash maintained about 3/4″.

I tasted this one in my mouth for hours after and even into the next day, but it blended well with my breakfast cappuccino, so I can’t complain.

I really enjoyed this one and I’ll be trolling the CB for more good deals!

CAO Italia Ciao Robusto Review

The Hype – “One of the cigar world’s highest ranked and most difficult to find cigars, C.A.O. Italia (when it can be found at all) is always limited to the purchase of one or two sticks at a time. Only because we have been begging for them, buying all we could get, hoarding the minuscule number we were allotted for the last twelve months, we have a very modest amount for sale. We’re now making the C.A.O. Italia available on a first-come, first-served basis.

The incredible secret to the C.A.O. Italia is the Habano seed brought to Italy forty years ago and carefully nurtured in the Benevento region of southern Italy. The result of this is the production of a unique earthy-sweetness in the seed. It is this remarkable seed that is transported to Honduras where it is meticulously cultivated. With its New World-Old World origins, this wrapper is perhaps the most unique in any cigar today. Certainly it produces a cigar that the renowned Robb Report includes among the “Best of the Best” for 2005.

Few cigars have burst on the scene with as much fanfare as the C.A.O. Italia, and few have garnered the attention of the cigar cognoscenti, captivating their highly cultured palates. Now it is your turn to experience the cosmopolitan flair of the C.A.O. Italia with its Italian, Nicaraguan, and Peruvian blend of long fillers.”

The review – I bought a box of these from Thompson Cigar last year and they’ve been maturing nicely in my large humidor. I figured today was as good a day as any to try one…The cigar is truly beautiful, with a dark wrapper that shows minimal veinage. The stick is solid and a little heavy in the hand. Prelight aroma is decidedly strong alfalfa with hints of ammonia. The cigar was a little difficult to light, even though storage humidity was carefully controlled. Once lit though, it maintained a good burn with uniform gray ash at about 1″.

The smoke on this cigar is a billowing white/gray that smells like my grandfather’s study…cedar and oak. The cigar is definitely full-bodied, and I was glad that I was drinking Sprite with this one to keep the palate clean. Others have mentioned a stiff draw, but I found this one to be quite pleasant. I smoked this cigar for almost an hour and a half without even realizing it. The first third of the cigar was strong and woodsy, but still quite enjoyable. I noticed a slight nicotine buzz after the first hour and saw changes in the flavor profile at that point also. The flavor started to mellow into a peppery creaminess that was a great finish to this fine cigar. CAO has again delivered on their promise of premium cigars. I’ll be ordering another box…

Cuban Honeys Corona Amaretto Review

The hype – “Cuban Honeys are one of the best-selling flavored lines in the country. Cuban Honeys are entirely handmade with premium long-filler Cuban-seed leaves from the Dominican Republic.

Cuban Honeys Label

Cuban Honeys Label

The review – This much-hyped little cigar sat in my humidor for a long time before I gave it a chance. The label is a kitchy  yellow with a sketch of a “Cuban Honey”. Prelight aroma definitely hints of almonds and the tip has a sweet amaretto taste. This stick lit very easily and was an easy draw. Smoke smells quite pleasant and doesn’t smell artificial at all. First draw was a little harsh and it took a few puffs to mellow enough to discern distinct flavors. I noticed a distinct earthy overtone, with hints of leather and sweet spice. The amaretto flavor didn’t really come through to my mouth as flavor, but the smoke did start to smell like burnt biscotti after a while. This stick smoked for about 40 minutes and held a firm gray ash that peaked at about 3/4″. Like most flavored cigars, the finish was a little harsh, but not unbearable.  This little honey wasn’t particularly exciting, but was pleasant enough that I’d definitely smoke one again.

My favorite poem

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

-Dyllan Thomas

TNT Cigars Dominican Green Label – Mac Alt

The hype – “Macanudo Alternatives are manufactured in the Dominican Republic. Though these cigars are not manufactured by Macanudo they are extremly similar in taste to Macanudo, with impeccable construction and quality. Same mild flavor at a fraction of the price.”
The review – I purchased a bundle of these from after I heard from a friend that they were a good deal. These are handsome sticks, they are very well made and feel heavy in the hand; firm and smooth. The prelight aroma is alfalfa with a hint of pepper. The cigar lights easily and the first puff is light and clean. Smoke is medium-bodied gray that smells like my Macanudo Duke of Windsor cigars. Ash is tight dark gray and burn very evenly. The ash falls off quicker than the original Macanudo, but it’s not sloppy. After getting half-way through the cigar, I noticed the ash was burning unevenly towards the middle and I was able to see that there was a mass of stems – this was surprising as I’ve never seen it on any other cigar before. I ignored that aesthetic issue and focused on taste…The stick stayed mellow throughout. Flavor was cedar, leather with a white pepper that became more intense towards the end – minor lip tingle and pepper sensation on the tongue.  This is definitely not Macanudo quality, but it’s a decent smoke. At $1.68/stick, these are worth keeping around.

Thompson Corojo Cubano Robusto Review

The Hype – “Corojo Cubano is a handmade combination filler cigar in a delicious Corojo wrapper for less than what you’d expect to pay for a machine-made drug store cigar! Yep, that’s right. Read the ingredient list and drool. This handmade cigar is made from a delectable blend of Dominican Piloto Cubano and Olor combination fillers, Dominican binder, and a beautiful and oh-so-rich smoking Honduran Corojo wrapper. The effect is nothing short of mesmerizing.

No, our supply of Corojo Cubano didn’t fall off a truck. Let’s just say I happened to be in the right place at the right time to take advantage of this special deal, and the best part is I get to pass the saving on to you.”

The review – I try not to be a cigar snob, but I’ve been burned by Thomson before. So I went into this review with some trepidation while trying to be objective and open-minded…

The cigar is not a well-built as I’d like to see. The covering leaf seems awfully thin and I’m worried it will tear apart. Prelight aroma is very mild alfalfa, quite pleasant. This cigar lights very easily and the first puff is bland but nice. The burn is very uniform and ash is white that flakes way too much and drops off after about 3/4 inch. The cigar actually tastes quite good. Flavor is simple, with leather, coffee, cream and a  hint of spice. I noticed a very gentle tingle of white pepper half-way though, and I smoked it comfortably to the nub without excessive bitterness or harshness.

I’d definitely smoke these again – It’s not a high-end premium cigar, but for the price you can’t do much better.

Torano Exodus Silver Robusto Review

The hype – “The Exodus Silver is an addition to the extremely successful Exodus 1959 series. Offering a well-aged filler combination of Costa Rican, Honduran and Mexican tobaccos, the Silver is a round, rather than square-pressed. The wrapper is notable: instead of a dark, milky Habana 2000, it’s a gorgeous, dark and enticing Criollo ’98 leaf. Overall, the flavor is medium-bodied and very smooth thanks to the extensive aging, with a satisfying finish and cedary, nutty taste.”

The review –  Carlos Torano’s family handcraft many of the famous brands like Ghurka and CAO, so I was certain that this cigar would be good.I took this one on a road trip in my travel humidor which didn’t do a good job on maintaining humidity, so it was a little dry. The robusto is solid and well made. Regardless of the humidity problem, the Criollo wrapper looked good and the vitola has a great prelight aroma; alfalfa and slightly nutty. Being slightly dry, this cigar lit very easily and the smoke smells wonderfully fresh and clean. I love Criollo leaf, so perhaps I’m biased, but it has a great fresh smell that I really enjoy. Draw was a little tight on this stick, but not unpleasant, it helped me take time to contemplate the unique and complex flavors. Each draw seemed slightly different…I tasted nuts, cedar, espresso and even a slight hint of citrus. The burn was uniform with a tight white ash for the first third, after which it got gray and flaky.  I smoked this one right down to two fingers until it finally got too hot. This was my first Exodus Silver and I was very pleased. Definitely worth getting a box.

Don Pepin Blue Label Robusto Review

The hype –These are full-bodied cigars and are not recommended for a beginning smoker. The wrapper is an oily Nicaraguan Corojo leaf, described as cinnamon in color. The cigars come packed 25 to a cedar box, uncelloed. The band is blue with gold lettering. The center has “Don Pepin Garcia” in gold on a blue field inside a round red and gold border, with Don Pepín’s signature (reduced) below the name. Each wing has the U. S. and Cuban flags within roundels, overlapping.”

The review – This is a well-constructed robusto cigar. The wrapper is velvety smooth and has a very appealing sheen to it. The prelight aroma was earthy and nutty with hints of alfalfa. This cigar lit very easily and burned uniformly. The frist puff was sweet and aromatic and white smoke emanated in billowing clouds. After the first few puffs, the flavor became more complex, with spice, leather and a hint of pepper. About half way through this one, an espresso aftertaste began to permeate which was a little strong for me, but I soldiered on. The smoke has a strong but pleasant aroma, but it definitely smells like an “old-school” cigar and will fail the spousal acceptance factor. I began to sip Sprite on ice while smoking this one, which helped soften the full impact of the espresso. Approaching the 2-finger point, the flavor became overpoweringly bitter and I called it a day. This certainly is a stronger cigar than what I usually smoke, but reports of it “knocking you on your ass” are exaggerated. I now own a box of these, but this isn’t one I’d consider an everyday smoke or to give to beginners. This is a cigar for the adventurous, and those who enjoy a full-bodied smoke.

Verdadero Organic Robusto Review

The hype – “Believe it or not, organic tobacco has started a very small and loyal niche following within the cigar market for its genuine (albeit) unique flavor. It all began with OneOff, a highly rated, uber-expensive blend once made with 100% organic tobaccos, and continues today through Verdadero Organic.

Verdadero begins with a flawless Connecticut wrapper gown in the misty valleys of Ecuador. Oily and seamless in appearance, this plush leaf combines an entirely organic mixture of rare Nicaraguan long-fillers grown in Granada on a proprietary farm at the base of the Mambacho volcano. These tobaccos have been triple-fermented and patiently aged, to truly promote this uniquely earthy and robust, yet smooth, creamy volume of flavor. The cigar itself is mild to medium-bodied, but offers a full-flavored bouquet that stands apart from anything else you’ve tried before. If you’ve never experienced organic tobacco and are open to trying new and interesting blends of the highest caliber, check out Verdadero Organic.

Every box of Verdadero Organic comes with a genuine certificate of authenticity signed by the Granada mayor, approving and certifying the organic nature of each filler leaf within this blend.”

The reviewI was naturally skeptical when I heard about these. It seems like everyone is jumping on the “organic” bandwagon these days. I did some googling of reviews and it seems like some people love them, others hate them and many ar just indifferent. I saw them on cigarbid at a deeply discounted price, and though I’d buy the sampler pack & give them a try.

The stick looks like it is very well constructed, it is firm in the hand and feels slightly heavy. Prelight aroma is pretty strong. It has a strong ammonia smell, with a hint of fresh-cut grass. It lights easily and the smoke smells most pleasant, not unlike a CAO Gold. First draw is spicy and effortless. Ash is a beautiful white-gray that holds its form until about 1.5 inches. The smoke is entirely uniform until the last third…smooth, mellow, creamy with notes of spice and leather and a slight hint of nuttiness. At the 2/3 mark, it becomes harsh and a quick purge cures it. Down to the nub, there is a medium tingle on the lips and tongue that isn’t entirely unpleasant; black pepper is the closest match.

I like this cigar, definitely worth keeping a few boxes around.

5 Vegas Gold Double Nickel Review

The hype – “Premium tobaccos aged for 5 years, wrapped in a silken Connecticut Shade Wrapper leaf and blended to perfection make 5 Vegas Gold a stellar, smooth and mellow cigar. Upon lighting these cigars you will experience creamy, nutty and woodsy tastes that are enhanced by a delightful aroma produced from the billowing white clouds of smoke. The unique, handsome “gold bar” boxes that house these delicious cigars are handmade in Honduras.”

The reviewThis is my first 5 Vegas experience, and I was quite excited to explore the nuances of this brand. This was part of a “triple-nickel sampler” that I purchased from the Tinder-box last year and I’ve been waiting patiently to try them. I like to let a new cigar sit for at least 90 days in my humidor before trying it. I don’t know why I do it, I guess it has just become another part of my increasingly complex cigar ritual.

The wife is out of town and I have the house to myself, so I decided to watch Grand Torino and enjoy a bottle of Wild Turkey tonight. I put in the movie and approached the cigar…This is a very solid box-pressed cigar. It is velvety smooth and perfectly straight. The cigar band is a huge gold-embossed beauty that makes it look a little flashy, but still relatively classy. It compresses ever so slightly without being mushy and is quite  heavy in the hand. Prelight aroma on this one is very pleasant, it has the faint ammonia notes with alfalfa and fresh-cut grass. Classic tobacco goodness. The cap has a very slight tingle to it and tastes neutral. The cigar lights easily and produces voluminous light gray smoke that is spicy and almost sweet-smelling. The first puff is bitter but it immediately mellows to a toasty spice that is uniformly good. This is definitely a mild cigar.

Ash on this little beauty went on forever; it measured almost 2.5 inches before it fell. Ash was gray/white with slight flakiness on the edges. The burn was uniform until the first ashing, after which it was slightly uneven but still completely manageable. I noticed a tar accumulation bitterness as I approached the 2/3 point, but blowing through to purge it worked fine and the pleasant spiciness returned until I reached the 2-finger point where the toast became quite pronounced and it was time to ditch it.

Overall, this was a satisfying experience. I smoked this one faster than I normally would; I took about 1 hour instead of the usual hour and a half the I usually take with a robusto. I’m not sure if that’s testament to the mildness of this stick or that I was just so engrossed in the great movie that I was puffing too fast.

This is a good mild cigar. I still prefer the CAO Gold robusto, but this one is definitely worth keeping around and I imagine I’ll be enjoying many more of these in the future.

La Gloria Cubana Wavell Robusto Review

The hype “Full, rich, creamy and strong. Ernesto Carillo knows his craft well. When it comes to full-bodied, well-constructed cigars, La Gloria Cubana has a great reputation. La Gloria Cubanas offer a delicious balance of Brazilian, Dominican, Mexican, and Nicaraguan filler, together with a dark Ecuadorian wrapper. The La Gloria Cubana Serie R utilizes an Ecuadorian grown Colorado shade wrapper, or Connecticut Broadleaf maduro, concealing an extensively aged blend of Mexican, Dominican, Brazilian, and Nicaraguan filler leaves. The result is a richer, spicier, fuller bodied version of the regular La Gloria Cubana line. Using thicker ring gauges, the Serie R helped pave the way for today’s thicker, bolder cigars.”

The review – This is a darker robusto cigar. The brand has a very good reputation, with this vitrola classified as a full-bodied smoke. Prelight aroma was almost completely neutral, there was a barely discernable odor of grass, but nothing else. The cap tastes like tobacco with no additional flavor. Lighting this cigar is very easy and it burns uniformly. Ash is a light gray/white. First puff is slightly harsh with a hint of bitterness. Flavor mellows to tobacco, toast and leather after a few puffs. Smoke is light gray to blue and is not particularly voluminous. Draw is completely effortless (one of the big reasons I like the robusto profile so much). There is a hint of pepper in the aftertaste. Drinking reverse osmosis purified water to cleanse the palate realy helps to bring out the flavor of this one. Slight spice approaching the end of the 1st third. Into the second third, the spice intensifies and the smoke changes in profile. This certainly smells like a classy smoke…Very gentle tingle on the tongue through the middle of the cigar with toast and spice predominating the flavor profile. Approaching the last 3rd, the tingle reaches a white pepper creschendo and the initial bitterness returns for a slightly harsh finish. At $4 – $6 per stick at retail, this isn’t one I’d recommend as a primo smoke, but still very good and worth keeping around.

John Bull Prime Minister (Presidente) Review

I got my new Jaguar today, Stock photo-new xjso I just had to go for a drive. I figured a British car called for a “British” smoke, so I broke out some of my new John Bull Prime Minister cigars for the trip. I also brought along the Bobkin travel ashtray I recently purchased from Heartfelt.

The hype – “Mellow but flavorful Connecticut-wrapped lovelies….for an incredible price. The best part about this cigar is the quality-to-price ratio. There are better cigars out there and there are far more pricey cigars out there….but if you want a good quality, mild handmade at a tremendous price, this is an ideal ’everyday’ option.
Oh my! John Bull combines a silky Connecticut Ecuador wrapper with an aged combination of Nicaraguan and Dominican tobaccos. Together this holy cocktail delivers a pretty smooth, mild to medium-bodied bouquet. The cigar billows with thick, creamy, voluminous clouds, consuming the palate in rich fashion and leaving behind pleasant notes of cedar and toast. Hey, for an everyday mild handmade, John Bull is an enjoyable and satisfying solution, brother. Packed in big, chunky, cedar boxes of 30 cigars….all at a price that’ll keep you coming back for more, a dozen times over.”

The review – I had never heard of the John Bull brand, but I saw a good deal on cigarbid and thought I’d buy a 5-pack and “see what happens”. This Presidente sized vitrola is a full 7.2″ long in approx 54 ring size that feels substantial and looks like any high quality stick. Prelight aroma is definitely grassy with an an ammonia undertone, much like any other mild cigar. This stick lit easily and the draw was uniformly easy. Flavor is surprisingly good for a “cheap” cigar. There is a creaminess that is quite enjoyable with hints of nuts, leather and vanilla. This vitrola ashed very evenly (light gray) and ran about 3/4″. The smoke from this cigar is most enjoyable, smelling like any of my “top-shelf” cigars. The flavor was consistent to the nub, which is unusual, especially on a discount cigar. I took this one down to the nub and then imediately lit another… I smoked four of these today over the course of a 230 mile round-trip and over lunch. This is an excellent mild cigar that I’d be comfortable giving to anyone, from a novice to advanced smoker. It tastes good, smells good and is decidedly pleasant. I just ordered myself a full box!

Tabak Especial Negra Corona Review

The hype – “Half cigar, half amazing. Drew Estate cannot be touched when it comes to top-caliber infused cigars with deliciously unique aromas. With Tabak Especial they’ve taken the coffee-infused cigar to bold new heights that thrill the taste buds. Jonathan Drew has carefully influenced Esteli-grown long-leaf tobaccos with the robust nuances of Nicaragua’s finest coffee beans. The result is a rich tobacco core layered with savory espresso notes and a touch of milk chocolate, all perfectly balanced by by a sweet, velvety aftertaste. The regular Tabak Especial is available in two varieties. Dulce, which employs a silky shade grown Connecticut wrapper; Negra, a dark broad leaf maduro-wrapped beauty.  The special Cafe Con Leche blend fuses these two into one spectacular offering….highly recommended!” – Cigars International

The review – This is another Jonathan Drew creation. Although I’m not a huge fan of the Acid series, I certainly do admire the man’s passion for tobacco as well as the innovations he has made in infusion technologies. Prelight on this one is certainly unique. It smells like mocha coffee with hint of cinnamon, vanilla and chocolate. This cigar seems to hold more moisture than others;  it is “squishier” and appears moister (probably a byproduct of the infusion) like the acid series. The labeling style makes it look exotic & alluring with an old-world flair. The filler extends past the wrapper, hinting of the foam layer on top of a cup of espresso. The stick is uniformly firm and the maduro wrapper is almost flawless with slight veinage. The cap is sweetened and has a very pleasant coffee taste with a slight tobacco tingle. Draw is slightly tight, but not unpleasant, bringing the first puff with a volley of strong tobacco flavor. The aroma of the wispy gray smoke is magnificent with all the best of a pipe tobacco and a fine cigar. I’m impressed. The cigar tastes great, with the meaty goodness of a maduro and the coffe infusion providing an undertone of flavor that isn’t overpowering like so many other “flavored” cigars. There is a note of white pepper that reminds you that you’re smoking a medium bodied cigar. Ash of a firm white mass that lasted to approximately1 inch. My drink of choice is Smart Bottle filtered water from my home system; I find that this is consistently my favorite palate cleanser when trying a new cigar, especially the infused ones. After the 1st third, the flavor tended more towards a burnt coffee flavor which was a little too bitter for me. The bitterness mellowed after a few minutes and it went back to maduro goodness. At approximately halfway I went more than 90 seconds between puffs and she went out, confirming my suspicion of excessive moisture. I relit again at 2/3 which was a little irritating as like to “get in the moment” when I’m smoking and not have to get my lighter out after I light the vitrola the first time.Towards the 3-finger mark, flavor started to get bitter again but it relaxed again after a few strong puffs. The lip-tingle intensifies as I smoke this, and by the 2-finger mark I feel like I’ve just downed a strong thai curry; not unpleasant, just very noticeable. I snuffed this one afer a total smoking time of 1 hour, which was fast for one this size – I think I was puffing faster than ususal to keep it alive. Good cigar, not on my personal a-list but worth keeping around. Best price I found was from Cigars International.

CAO Gold Honey Petite Corona Review

The hype “Gold Honey by CAO distills the essence of the highest quality orange blossom honey in the world. Each spring these flowers secrete sweet nectar from the lushest orange groves in Florida. We compliment this floral honey with well-aged tobaccos, creating a fusion of heavenly perfume and subtle earthiness. Let the sweetness of Gold Honey warm your heart and renew you like springtime”.

The review – I got this little stick as part of a CAO flavors sampler from the Tinderbox.  So far the CAO Moontrance is my favorite CAO flavor, and my impression of flavored cigars is less than stellar based ont he other that I’ve tried.  I was bored today after lunch and thought I’d take crack at this little corona. The prelight aroma is pure orange blossom honey with a hint of alfalfa, smells wonderful. The stick lights easily and the draw is effortless. The cap is sweetened and smoke smells great. Smoking this little cigar was surprisingly pleasant. I drank still mineral water throughout as a palate cleanser. This was an enjoyable smoke that was consistent all the way down to the nub. There was a lingering white pepper tingle mingled with the honey and spice. I would definitly smoke one of these again.

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